Global Health, Public Health, Translational and Clinical Research, Head - Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGo)

Research Overview

Based at the Doherty Institute, the Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGo) works in partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI, Infection and Immunity Theme). Our research enables us to advise policy makers on the optimal use of vaccines in national immunisation schedules, in pandemic influenza preparedness and response, and in vaccine safety. Our work provides practical bridges (translation) between theory and the real-world delivery of vaccine programs.

Current*, planned and possible studies (mid 2020-2021)

*Quadrivalent cell culture inactivated influenza vaccine Phase III/IV
*RSV adenovirus vectored vaccine Phase I
*Pneumococcal vaccine 15vPCV Phase III
Meningococcus MenABCWY Phase III
Meningococcus MenABCWY Phase III (prior MenACWY)
Pregnancy RSV vaccine Phase III
*COVID (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines Phase I and II
Pertussis  Live-attenuated vaccine Phase I/II
Pertussis-diphtheria-tetanus (Tdap, CPG-adjuvanted) Phase I/II

Epidemiologic Studies

  • Maternal influenza vaccination and impact on infant influenza illness
  • Rotavirus vaccines and possible reduced incidence of Type 1 Diabetes
  • Data linkage, and statewide perinatal data studies on maternal pertussis vaccine (Tdap) uptake and effectiveness against infant pertussis
  • Past virus discovery research collaborating with University of Queensland

Clinical Trials

We draw on three decades of clinical trials experience to explore the effectiveness, antibody responses and safety of new vaccines in standard or novel schedules. VIRGo has been actively engaged in both industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated research (NHMRC funded), clinical trials and epidemiologic studies, whose findings have been vital for the licensure of several vaccines now in widespread use in Australia and/or elsewhere in the world. Vaccines evaluated have included those classified as GMOs, live-attenuated intranasal vaccines, as well as oral and conventional parenteral vaccines. We have conducted research in pregnancy, neonates, infancy, childhood, adolescence and in adults. Our research has also included adults for high priority conditions such as seasonal and pandemic influenza, and recently for COVID-19. We pioneered the use of a home-based recruitment and research model using mobile teams of research staff, but have also employed more conventional venues such as the Clinical Trials Centre at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and in primary healthcare venues at the University of Melbourne. Subject recruitment has often been facilitated by use of Australia’s Immunisation Registry.

Led by VIRGo, the Australian Vaccines for COVID Alliance (Vax4COVID) is an alliance of experienced Australian vaccine clinical trial centres formed to facilitate the conduct of Phase II trials of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates.


  • Professor Terry Nolan, Unit Head
  • Jacinta O'Sullivan, Research Manager
  • Dr Briony Price, Senior Research Officer
  • Dr Maryanne Griffith, Business Development Officer
  • Dr Lana Horng, Study Doctor
  • Clare Brophy, Research Assistant
  • Janet Briggs, Research Assistant
  • Annmarie McEvoy, Research Assistant
  • Jane Ryrie, Research Assistant
  • Bernie McCudden, Phlebotomist
  • Samara Griffin, Research Assistant
  • Anna Bourke, Research Assistant


Recent and current:

  • GSK
  • Janssen
  • Merck
  • Seqirus
  • Novavax
  • Serum Institute of India
  • Australian Research Council
  • Department of Health and Human Services Victoria

Research Publications

  1. Nolan, T., McVernon, J., Skeljo, M., Richmond, P., Wadia, U., Lambert, S., Nissen, M., Marshall, H., Booy, R., Heron, L., Hartel, G., Lai, M., Basser, R., Gittleson, C., Greenberg, M.: Immunogenicity of a monovalent 2009 influenza A(H1N1) vaccine in infants and children: a randomized trial. JAMA 2010;303(1):37-46.
  2. S.A. Madhi, F.P. Polack, P.A. Piedra, F.M. Munoz, A. Trenholme, E.A.F. Simoes, G.K. Swamy, K. Ahmed, A.H. Baqui, M.F. Cotton, C. Cutland, J.A. Englund, B. Gonik, L. Hammitt, P. T. Heath, J. de Jesus, C. Jones, R. Libster, C. Llapur, M. Lucero, H.S. Marshall, F. Martinón-Torres, J. Meece, T. Nolan, P. Richmond, M. Snape, A.T. Tita, M.W. Varner, K. Vrbicky, H.J. Zar, I. Cho, J. Chen, D.N. Thomas, J. Wen, A.B. Fix, V. Shinde, G.M. Glenn, L.F. Fries. Safety and immunogenicity of a respiratory syncytial virus F-protein nanoparticle vaccine in pregnant women and efficacy in prevention of severe lower respiratory tract infection in their young infants: A phase III randomized, placebo-controlled trial. New England Journal of Medicine 2020;383:426-39.
  3. Nolan, T., Chotpitayasunondh, T., Capeding, M.R., Carson, S., Senders, S.D., Jaehnig, P., de Rooij, R., Chandra, R.: Safety and tolerability of a cell culture derived trivalent subunit inactivated influenza vaccine administered to healthy children and adolescents: A Phase III, randomized, multicenter, observer-blind study. Vaccine 2016;34:230-6.
  4. K Perrett; S Halperin; T Nolan; C Martínez Pancorbo; B Tapiero; F Martinon-Torres; Z Stranak; M Virta; O Vanderkooi; P Kosina; M Begona Encinas Pardilla; I Cristobal Garcia; G Vincenzo Zuccotti; L Kostanyan; N Meyer; M Angeles Ceregido; B Cheuvart; S O Kuriyakose; M Manuel Fernandez; M Ángel Rodríguez Zambrano; A Martin Garcia; J Eloy Asenjo de la Fuente; M D Camacho Marin; M de la Calle Fernández-Miranda; Y Romero Espinar; P Giovanna Marchisio; P Manzoni; N Mesaros: Immunogenicity, transplacental transfer of pertussis antibodies and safety following pertussis immunization during pregnancy: Evidence from a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Vaccine 2020:38;2095-2104
  5. Cadorna-Carlos, J.B. (joint senior author), Nolan, T.M. (joint senior author), Borja-Tabora, C.F., Santos, J., Montalban, M.C., de Looze, F.J., Eizenberg, P., Hall, S., Dupuy, M., Hutagalung, Y., Pépin, S., Saville, M.: Safety, immunogenicity, and lot-to-lot consistency of a quadrivalent inactivated influenza vaccine in children, adolescents, and adults: a randomized, controlled, phase III trial. Vaccine 2015;33(21):2485-92.

Research Projects

For project inquiries, contact our research group head.

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Research Group Leader Professor Terry Nolan AO

Department / Centre

Infectious Diseases

Unit / Centre

Global Health, Public Health, Translational and Clinical Research, Head - Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGo)

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